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Robert Eve

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Article

Why Do We Call It Data Virtualization?

A rose by any other name

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose.

By any other name would smell as sweet; "

What's in a Name?
In Juliet's famous scene from Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare implies that a name, in this case Montague, means nothing.

So how have we been naming this concept that we now call "data virtualization" over the past ten years?

  • Federated Query
  • Enterprise Information Integration (EII)
  • Data Federation
  • Data Abstraction
  • Data Services
  • Information-as-a-Service

Why Composite Software Went with Data Virtualization "Back in the Day"
Composite Software was the first vendor to adopt the term data virtualization in June 2007.  This was covered by Information Management in Composite Software Advances SOA Data Virtualization with New Product Release.  SOA World used similar data virtualization terminology later in 2007 in Fast-Forward to Today's Virtual Data Marts , as did IT BusinessEdge in  When Data Virtualization Works - And When It Doesn't .

My team at Composite selected data virtualization as the term of choice based on what our advanced customers at the time such as Tony Bishop, then CTO of Wachovia's Corporate Investment Bank, were calling the set of data services capabilities they had successfully deployed across over 200 data sources in support of over 25 consuming applications.

We felt this captured the essence of the wider architectural context better than narrower, query-oriented or SOA only terms.  Further we appreciated the alignment with the other virtualizations, for example storage, server and applications virtualization.  While data virtualization was a different kind of virtualization, its value was similar in terms of overcoming existing complexity, reducing costs and increasing agility.

Other Vendors Climb on Board the Data Virtualization Name Train
By 2009, other vendors got on board as well.  Denodo Technologies did so when they shifted to the data virtualization market from mashups, as did Informatica later in 2009 when their internally developed (they used to resell Composite) data services platform hit the market.  Recent entrants such as Queplix who shifted from search now claim data virtualization.  And the old Metamatrix EII offering, now reborn within Red Hat's JBoss Data Services Platform 5.1 provides "data virtualization".

Analysts on Track Too
Key IT analysts such as Rick van der Lans in his recent B-eye Network blog Clearly Defining Data Virtualization, Data Federation, and Data Integration have recently published data virtualization definitions including the following:

"Data virtualization is the process of offering data consumers a data access interface that hides the technical aspects of stored data, such as location, storage structure, API, access language, and storage technology"

Dr. Barry Devlin's, principal of 9sight Consulting and one of the founders of data warehousing in the mid 1980s, covered the definition of data virtualization in his recent posting Virtualization, Federation, EII and other non-synonyms.

And even though he used ‘proper' English with ‘data virtualisation', we can see Philip Howard, research director with Bloor Research, get with the ‘programme' when he posted, So, what is data virtualisation? describing data virtualization's evolution, key capabilities and how pure player vendors have a significant advantage in the market over the broader data integration vendors.

And not to be outdone, in June this year, Forrester Research published a complete report of data virtualization, covered by Virtualization Journal and DataCenter Automation in Data Virtualization Reaches Critical Mass.   In it, they define data virtualization as

"Data virtualization is a technology that abstracts, transforms, federates, and delivers data taken from a variety of heterogeneous information sources. It allows consuming applications or users to access data from these various sources via a request to a single access point."

Ah, the sweet smell of Data Virtualization!

More Stories By Robert Eve

Robert Eve is the EVP of Marketing at Composite Software, the data virtualization gold standard and co-author of Data Virtualization: Going Beyond Traditional Data Integration to Achieve Business Agility. Bob's experience includes executive level roles at leading enterprise software companies such as Mercury Interactive, PeopleSoft, and Oracle. Bob holds a Masters of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Science from the University of California at Berkeley.